When I was in the fourth grade, my family moved six hours away from my Indiana hometown. I started out as the shy girl and kept to myself. But in our new home in Iowa during the summer of 1988, shy got me nowhere. I quickly made friends with Jessica across the street and Sarah on the corner by being fun and happy. Accommodating. Pleasant. Able to blend. I was a human chameleon, and I didn’t even know it. I continued with that way of coping for many years. I didn’t realize I was coping; I just thought it was me. I’m laid-back. Things don’t bother me. I’m easy to get along with.
And I was, until I got hurt. And when I got hurt, rather than facing the hurt and being honest about the fact that it was there, I hid the hurt and hoped it would fade away. Instead, it seeped into my skin and came out in other ugly ways: passivity, disconnectedness, anger. I didn’t know how to share the hurt. And so it festered, I hid, and the mask got tighter.
Hiding behind fine isn’t always an indicator of fear or insecurity. Sometimes it just takes too much energy to be authentic. I want to turn my emotions off, put my hurt up on the shelf, set the glaze in my eyes and the half-smile on my face. Not necessarily because it feels safer, but because it’s just easier. And just like people who struggle with emotional eating or excessive exercise or any other type of addiction, I recognize my addiction to wanting to be left alone. I am addicted to the island of myself.
I remember listening to Brene Brown give a keynote speech at a conference last year, and she made a memorable distinction between being vulnerable and being intimate. I don’t believe we have to be honest and tell everyone how we are doing, the intimate details of the state of our hearts. But might we dare to be honest before God, to trust that he is wise enough and loving enough and intuitive enough to usher us into being vulnerable with certain people?
I recently thought more about these things as I wandered through the empty, brick streets of Seaside, FL. I share more about this at (in)courage this morning. Join me there?
Portions of this post are revised excerpts from Chapter 4 of my book, Grace for the Good Girl. You can read the first chapter here or for the lowest price I can find right now, you can purchase the book for $9.99 at CBD. It is also available on Amazon, or at your local Barnes and Noble, Family Christian, or Lifeway bookstore. If you’ve already read the book, (or even if you haven’t) I would love to hear your thoughts or stories on this struggle between being intimate and being vulnerable.